Aftermarket Tire Siping – Don’t Get Sucked In

Learn from my mistake!

I’m trying really hard to resist the urge to kick myself right now. Usually, I listen to my little voice, and even when it only clears its little throat politely, I start doing research. But yesterday, I was tired.

It’s been my experience that making decisions while tired is never a good idea. And yet when I’m tired, I seem to forget that hard-earned wisdom. Especially when, I’m ashamed to admit, some man is around who is speaking with authority on a subject.

“Whatever you think is best” is so convenient. The decision gets made without having to do any pesky homework. That means there’s less delay between me and my desperately-needed nap.

And anyone reading this who thinks they never do the exact same thing is deluded. Look me in the eye and tell me that in the past 48 hours, you haven’t clicked “I agree” on some website without actually reading the terms and conditions. Take your time. You know where to find me.

Anyway, yesterday, I was on my hellish commute home after a long day at work. I was struggling to keep my eyes open. And the next thing I knew, it felt as if I had run over a concrete block.

The weird thing is I have no idea what caused that. I didn’t see anything on the road. I hadn’t left the road. I guess I’ll have to relegate it to the ever-growing questions-that-will-never-be-answered compartment in my brain.

Shortly after that, my car started pulling to the right. Once you’ve experienced that pull, you never forget how it feels. It’s the oh-f**k-I’ve-got-a flat-tire feeling.

I immediately pulled into the grocery store parking lot. Sure enough. Flat tire.

Now, in pre-marriage days, I’d have called AAA, and since it was during rush hour, I’d settle in for a 3 hour wait. Next, I’d drive to the tire place and spend another hour or so getting the tire repaired or replaced, all the while knowing my dogs were probably doing the pee pee dance and wondering why I wasn’t there yet. The whole drive home I’d be trying not to weep with exhaustion.

Truth be told, in my younger days, I would have changed the stupid tire myself. But my youth has been replaced by laziness and a desire to preserve my back, and better yet, I now have Dear Husband. So I called for help, and just like Mighty Mouse, he came to save the day.

I drove home on a donut, and he graciously took the tire to the tire shop. I tried to stay awake in case I was needed. I really did. I didn’t even go into the bedroom to gaze longingly at the bed. But I did sit in the recliner, and the next thing I knew, the phone rang and nearly launched me into space.

“Mmph. Wha? Hullo?”

“Do you want your tires siped?”

That woke me up. “What does that even mean?”

Now that I was fully conscious, DH had to explain that the tire couldn’t be repaired because the damage was to the sidewall. Then he sent me this picture.

And since even the Subaru website gently admits, without actually saying, that if you replace one tire you need to replace all four, or the balance is thrown off and can cause damage, I was getting a new set of tires. (Dammit!) And since I was doing that, perhaps I should consider siping.

Having never heard that term, and because I was exhausted, I accepted the Les Schwab Tires propaganda: “Siping is the process of cutting thin slits across the surface of a tire to improve traction for driving in snowy, wet or icy conditions. Siping can also help manage tire heat when the road is overly hot.”

Dear Husband was saying something about wanting the safest tires for me, and good gripping on the road, and I was fading again, so I said, “Whatever you think is best,” and then dove into bed and slept the sleep of the stupidly naïve.

A more alert me would have listened to my inner voice. I heard it muttering as I drifted off. “Who in their right mind pays to have thousands of little cuts put into their brand new tires? And if siping improved the safety of tires, why wouldn’t the manufacturer have done it in the first place?”

Well, the short answer is that they do. Large sipes are built into the tread during manufacturing. But Les Schwab does aftermarket siping using a process that they claim “would be too expensive and time-consuming for manufacturers.” To the tune of 15 bucks per tire.

By the time my bullshit detector was fully conscious, the deed had already been done. At least you can learn from my mistake, dear reader! And I’m confident that it was a mistake now. Why?

If you look at the links below, you’ll see that many tire stores actually recommend against siping on their websites. Les Schwab seems to be the only true believer that I came across. Consumer Reports actually did a test, and their conclusion was that “The siped version of both models showed modest but measurable improvements in snow-traction and ice-braking performance. But braking distances on wet and dry pavement were a few feet longer. Besides costing $60 or so for a set of four, having your tires siped potentially voids any tread-wear warranty. We don’t think the modest gains are worth the extra costs.”

The links below also mention that tire siping is illegal in many states, and that doing so to your tires can shorten their service life and hinder their performance. It will also increase noise levels. The increased heat (which is a direct contradiction to the Les Schwab claim) can result in uneven tire wear, and chunks of tire actually breaking off. Even the National Safety Council does not recommend aftermarket siping.

I truly hope Les Schwab believes their own bs, because I have always liked doing business with them up to this point. But if they don’t believe it themselves, and they took advantage of DH’s desire to give me the safest driving experience, that would infuriate me. It will also infuriate me if that extra few feet of stopping distance that Consumer Reports says I’ve lost is all I would have needed to avoid some future collision.

So, yeah, bottom line is don’t voluntarily slash your own tires, regardless of how tired you are. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Additional Sources:

Read any good books lately? Try mine!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: